Building English skills: Listening

How to listen

Listening to English is an important activity that can improve your skills in other areas of English language development. Students studying at university need to develop good listening skills in order to make the most of the many lectures and tutorials they attend.

Listening is hard work; we only hear a percentage of what is spoken. During a lecture or seminar, listen actively by taking notes or silently posing a question on the lecture topic.  Many lectures at university are made available through podcasts that can be downloaded after the lecture.

Do not become frustrated if you do not understand everything you hear. Concentrate on what you do understand and remember that listening to English will become easier with practice.

How to practise listening

Listen to the newspaper being read aloud

Vision Australia Foundation operates a radio station, RPH Print Radio where articles from the daily newspapers are read aloud. This is a useful resource for vision impaired people and it is also very helpful for people learning English as a Second Language. You could make a valuable listening resource by purchasing a newspaper and then recording it being read on air. The Age, the Herald Sun, The Australian and the Australian Financial Review are read at various times of the day. 

Listen to news stories online

The Breaking News English website allows you to see the text of news stories and listen to them being read aloud at different speeds.

Listen to English language kits

You can buy the kits from specialist English language bookshops or borrow them from libraries.

Practise listening and notetaking

Visit Language and Learning Online and complete the listening tutorials. Many universities also record lectures so that you may listen to them again. Listen to Monash Lectures Online.

Learn more about listening to lectures with EASE (Essential Academic Skills in English). You will need to type in your Monash computer account details.

Listening and learning

Register for a free weekly video listening exercise at the English Language Listening Library Online (elllo), learn English online through Radio Australia or watch an exciting TED lecture.

Radio and television

ABC Radio and Television

ABC Radio

The national radio station,  Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) has a web site where you can listen to radio and TV programs and download written transcripts of the programs. An easy way to create an English language exercise is to download the transcripts to read as you listen to the programs. The following radio programs provide transcripts.

Radio National presents programs in a range of topic areas such as health, education, the environment, science, law and religion.You can listen to a program via audio streaming on the internet and download transcripts. Below are some of the many interesting programs to choose from.

  • Late Night Live hosted by Phillip Adams, is an informative and lively current affairs program.
  • Background Briefing is an international documentary program.
  • The Health Report should be of interest to students from Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
  • The Science Show hosted by Robyn Williams, is of interest to Science students as well as a general audience.

Listen to ABC radio programs through audio streaming. A complete list of all transcripts for ABC radio programs is available.

Radio Australia broadcasts in English to many Asia and Pacific countries. Check Radio Australia's English Radio Program Schedule.  Asia Pacific program transcripts are also available through Radio Australia.

ABC Television

Behind the News  This program presents and explains current issues and events in the news. The program screens every week during school terms and has transcripts as well as related language activities. 

Another highly recommended TV program is Australian Story, a weekly documentary series featuring interesting or famous Australians telling their own stories. The transcripts are available for this program.

Commercial TV channels

Television  is very helpful for  listening and speaking as you will hear Australian accents and the common language spoken by Australians. Some local programs include Home and Away and Neighbours.

English language programs  presented in Asia include Star RFM in Malaysia and Radio 3 in Hong Kong.

Listening to lectures